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Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has received a US$350m Special Mission Aircraft (SMA) related contract from a major European country which will be executed by IAI’s ELTA Systems, a global leader in this domain. This comes after IAI supplied two Gulfstream G-550 aircraft to the Italian Air Force in 2016 and 2017 with key ELTA systems modification.

IAI is one of a select few companies with these technology capabilities in-house and has delivered SMA, which are considered to be strategic assets, to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and numerous countries worldwide. The company achieved a major breakthrough in this sector thanks to advanced sensor miniaturisation technology coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning software applications, allowing high performance business jets to be used as SMA whereas previously, most SMA were based on converted cargo or passenger planes.

The IAI/ELTA portfolio

  • Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Aircraft, utilising Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF), Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communication systems to generate and disseminate an Air and Maritime Situational Picture. It also contains an Air Battle Management and Strike Aircraft Guidance System. ELTA’s Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) aircraft is fitted with a dual band AESA radar providing complete and uncompromised 360° azimuthal coverage. IAI has entered into cooperation agreements with Airbus and Embraer to develop and market additional AEW&C aircraft variants.
  • Air to Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft, using advanced AESA, Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) radar, SIGINT and Electro Optical/Infra-Red sensors and an Intelligence Management System to cover large areas, providing Real-time detection, identification, tracking and distribution of surface targets from standoff range in all weather and visibility conditions. A leading product in this category is the IAI MARS2 that includes a breakthrough Digital AESA SAR/GMTI radar and latest generation SIGINT integrated with an advanced Multi-Intelligence (Multi-INT), carried by a high performance business jet.
  • Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), equipped with high performance AESA radar, SIGINT and EO/IR sensors to create an up-to-date maritime picture during Search And Rescue missions, Maritime policing, Environmental Monitoring, Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) in support of Naval and Coast Guard operations. ELTA’s MPAs are based on business jets and turboprop platforms featuring the ELM-2022 radar family, serving in many countries on all continents.
  • SIGINT aircraft monitoring the electromagnetic spectrum to detect and accurately locate emitter arrays and communication networks, creating a complete Electromagnetic Order of Battle over the entire large arena of interest. ELTA has developed and provided most advanced SIGINT aircraft to the IDF on business jet platform and supplied airborne SIGINT systems to many Special Mission Aircraft worldwide.

Italy purchased the AEW&C G-550 after the Israeli Air Force selected the Aermacchi M-346 for its advanced trainer requirement. According to this agreement, IAI also supplied a Ground Support Systems and logistical support package totalling US$750m while ELTA has equipped the G-550 with an integrated Electronic Support measures /Electronic Intelligence (ESM/ELINT) that is combined with its ELM-2060 SAR reconnaissance pod. Based on ELTA’s ELK-8385 proven Interferometric ESM/ELINT system, the integrated dual-use pod, designated ELI-2060E, can currently deliver radar imagery with ELINT target overlay. This capability allows the operator to collect enhanced Multi-INT data during a single reconnaissance flight leg, increasing both the probability of detecting ground targets and providing enhanced identification capabilities. Real-time exploitation and uplinked mission updates improve intelligence collection efficiency by focusing the imaging at the real-time areas of interest.


The Israeli Air Force (IAI) is operating similar CAEW systems on G-550 and IAI is offering the same configuration to other Air Forces with negotiations in different phases. The company has also teamed with Airbus to offer operators of the C-295 a conversion so that it can operate as an Aerial Early Warning (AEW) aircraft and carrying additional sensors.

The AEW C-295 is being offered with an AEW Radar, IFF, ESM/ELINT, CSM/COMINT, Self Protection Suite (SPS), Command & Control, Multi-Mode Radar, comprehensive communication suite including Network Centric Operation (NCO) Data Networks and Satellite Links. Airbus has invested in a demonstrator of the AEW C-295 which is fitted with a six metre rotodome featuring the IAI/ELTA fourth generation AESA radar with integrated IFF as the primary sensor.